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SVARTTJERN: "Towards the Ultimate" - 40%

skaven, January 11th, 2013

Long gone are the days of golden Norwegian Black Metal, and if someone asks you that where does the best black metal of the 2000s stem from, I doubt your answer would be Norway – unless you revere the Fossbrenna scene that, admittedly, is of relatively high quality (Kaosritual, One Tail, One Head et cetera). As a generalization, it seems that the Norwegian black metal of today is populated by a heap of rather polished and generic outlets of the black arts, starting with such names as Koldbrann and Sarkom. It strongly seems as well that Svarttjern's upcoming second full-length Towards the Chaos belongs to this very same category of somewhat meaningless black metal.

It always hurts a little to say something is just meaningless as it's certain that e.g. in this case there's surely been lots of work in achieving what it is, but when we take an objective glance over this mass of incessant studio blast beats and seas of tremolo guitar, there's very little content that ever stands out – every nuance is played by the book, including the high-pitched rasps of the vocalist. The most proper comparison I can come up with is a less melodic and more fierce version of Keep of Kalessin, basically meaning a bunch of palm-muted riffage within the usual speed race.

Towards the Chaos isn't, however, a total lackluster all the way through: luckily there is ”Hellig Jord” that incorporates a really sweet lead melody that easily gets stuck to the head. There are bits and pieces of prominent material in other corners of the album as well, but I don't think they are that noteworthy in the long run, as for the most part the record stagnates in the mud of dullness.

In the end, what's left of Towards the Chaos is a little more than one track of good material, and the rather soulless clean sound doesn't at least raise the album's score. Instruments are also executed with hundred percent tightness and precision that adds up to the almost computerized feeling. Fans of more modern black metal and those new to the genre overall may find more to dig from Towards the Chaos, but for me the album sounds way too much of the same paradigm that we've already heard during the last decade.

2 / 5
[ ]

Towards the disappointment... - 68%

dismember_marcin, July 16th, 2012

I must admit that I’ve been really waiting to hear this LP, ever since I’ve found the news about Agonia Records and Svarttjern singing the pact and about the second full length of this Norwegian act, which came out this year (2012). It’s all due to the fact that I really liked “Misanthropic Path of Madness”, Svarttjern’s debut LP, which was simply a devastating piece of Norwegian black metal cult. All news about “Towards the Ultimate” were very promising and finally I purchased the vinyl copy of it. I took a chance to buy a red vinyl version, which is limited to 100 copies only and I must say that I really like the layout for it. The front artwork looks very impressive and so does the rest of the design for “Towards the Ultimate”, including the inner sleeve, with those live photos of the band, all coloured in red. Cool! The red vinyl is also pleasant to an eye, so I was pretty sure that the music will be killer also!

And… well, I am sorry to say that but I feel really disappointed with “Towards the Ultimate”! I have no fuckin’ idea what happened to Svarttjern, but their second LP isn’t even half as great as the debut and as overall I feel it is just mediocre piece of black metal. It seems like the band has lost everything what was their main strengths on “Misanthropic Path of Madness”, which is very unfortunate and disappointing. I feel bored, when I listen to this new LP, it seems like there aren’t any songs, which – just like “Code Human” – would just fuckin skin me alive, the whole album is very powerless and goes by without much effect.

While the production of “Towards the Ultimate” is not so bad, although I liked the sound on “Misanthropic Path of Madness” more (because – I say that again – it simply was more energetic and violent), then the songwriting seems to be the biggest problem here. Svarttjern just didn’t compose as many killer songs this time, most of them tends to be very mediocre and not as strong, and at the same time the playing isn’t really influential and do not cause any effect on me, as the listener. I don’t feel devoured by the atmosphere of this LP and often I’m rather annoyed that the band just couldn’t reveal some more passion, anger and hatred in these sounds. I said already that the album is much less powerful and devastating that the previous one, but what else can I write, when the music on “Towards the Ultimate” seems to be slower and often even more melodic than the stuff from “Misanthropic Path of Madness” and the riffing is often so dull that it’s almost forgettable? They (Svarttjern) may have putted more accents on the atmospheric side of the music, but that caused the lack of fury. The previous LP was a whirl of aggression and possession, this one is much more tempered and often just begs for something more.

OK, there are some faster and also more killer songs, like the opening one, titled “Breathing Soil”, which is relatively good track. The riffing in it is venomous, furious, but it also builds a freezing atmosphere. There are also some more generally great fragments on the album: like “Aroused Self-Extinction”, which finally starts like a decent ejaculation of violence and negation of morality, with a real storm of blasting drums and slashing riffng. With these two tracks they do remind me bands like Enthroned, Tsjuder or Ragnarok… Another worthy songs would probably be “Through Madness and Sanity I am...”… But these are just exceptions. “Towards the Ultimate” is dominated by such tracks as “Hellig Jord” for instance, which on its own isn’t so bad, but when you have more songs in very similar vein, then you start to fall asleep and that’s not something, what I am really happy about. You’ve got “Hellig Jord” and then “Superior Growth” is also slower, so it quickly gets monotonous. Sure, “Superior Growth” speeds up somewhere in the middle, but it doesn’t help in providing more powerful energy, especially that “I am the Path, part II” or “Desolate Predictions” are also in this same category of songs. So, my impression is that not only neither of these songs distinguishes with something exceptional and killer, but they all also sound terribly similar and monotonous… they’re not so bad on their own, but when compiled together into a 40 minutes long album then they start to bore me a little. From all those slower songs I think I like “For What Blooms Without Lust” most; it has great classic black metal riffing in the beginning, it builds freezing atmosphere, only to speed up in the middle and finally finish everything with the most melodious riff on the whole LP. But the effect is much better here than on the rest of the album, so I can say that I like this track a lot.

Conclusion is only one – damn big frustration. And I’m quite surprised that this is yet another release from Agonia Records, which disappointed me. I mean there were albums from bands like Necrovation, Mr Death and now also Svarttjern, which aren’t that terribly bad, they’re fine, but my expectations from them were much, much bigger! I don’t know why, but I do prefer “Breed Deadness Blood” over “Necrovation”, “Tetra Karcist” over “Obsidium” and now I sincerely must say that I like “Misanthropic Path of Madness” much more than “Towards the Ultimate”. Is this Agonia Records’ curse or something? Anyway, the impact the debut had on me was much, much bigger, while this second LP is annoyingly average and in many places also forgettable… which is sad. “Towards the Ultimate” will catch the attention of some people, personally I still have some faith in this young band, but I hope that they can reveal something far greater in the future.
Standout tracks: “Aroused Self-Extinction”, “Breathing Soil”, “Through Madness and Sanity I am...”, “For What Blooms Without Lust”

Towards The Ultimate?! - 73%

nilgoun, December 18th, 2011

Svarttjern offer well played, little innovative black metal with some thrash and rock influences on their debut record named Misanthropic Path Of Madness which could, at least temporary, convince a lot of people. The first sounds of their latest record states, that nearly nothing has changed and you have to say that they have kept their line. The record is dominated by mid-tempo passages with a lot of thrashing and vitriolic nagged vocals, all underlined with melodic old school riffs. There is a a lot of variation in terms of tempo though and so they offer some up-tempo parts as well which are mostly paired with variations in terms of genre and so there are some thrash metal or rock influences, which could remind you of bands like Urgehal.

There are a lot of “déjà-écouté” effects, as you could see parallels to the more rock influenced records of Satyricon or some records of Marduk/Dark Funeral as well. In General this record offers, as many before, a good mixture of well established styles of the good old norwegian black metal. It’s obvious though, that Svarttjern aren’t making any progress: In general they lack innovation and so they didn’t reinvent the wheel – they only offer a good version of it, and in detail they are reusing slightly altered riffs again and again on the record which creates some longitudes. The only things that can smooth over are the really good production and the technical perfection they have within the record.


That’s all you have to say to describe the record. Towards The Ultimate is a really good profile of norwegian black metal that has a proven quality, so every fan of the genre should be more than satisfied. This style was copied/played a lot of times before, but mostly way worse than Svarttjern did, especially as they have added some really groovy and thrashy passages which are included perfectly. On the other side they lack innovation and they are reusing some riffs again and again in a slightly altered version (like in Hellig Jord and Unmasked Violation of Life). The quint-essence: If you really love the genre buy it, if you are jaded with that style just don’t.

Originally written for

Tiptoeing towards the ultimate - 72%

autothrall, September 25th, 2011

Two years after their debut Misanthropic Path of Madness, the Norse terrorists Svarttjern for an album that follows along a similar ley-line of melodic, blasted aggression. It's almost impossible not to compare their sound to acts like Marduk or Dark Funeral, because it covers such a similar spectrum of emotions, an infernal engine that finds fuel in both eloquence and suffering, heavily supported by the muscular drumming of Grimdun and the crisp, bleeding notation of the guitarists (HaaN and Fjellnord). The downside here is that the sophomore takes a few tracks to really get under the skin, because the riffs chosen on a number of the front-loaded tracks are not all that exciting apart from their sheer speed and precision.

Basically, "Breathing Soil" is a rush of blinding acceleration over a pretty average, if constant substrate of meandering melodies that wouldn't be out of place for Dissection or Lord Belial, but despite a few warlike breakdowns, it's lacking that extra 'oomph'. "Hellig Jord" fares better, with an evil, ascending pattern of chords over the driving double-bass, but it too devolves into something manic but somewhat typical of the bigger budget Scandinavian bands in the field. That said, this might also be viewed as a strength: those who miss the earlier, scathing years of, say 1349 will LOVE a track like "Aroused Self-Extinction" or "Desolate Predictions", because these gentlemen...err fiends have all of the same chops and proficiencies, and craft each riff with admirable caution and skill. But my favorites here actually came at the close of the album, with the snaking, dissonant and vicious wall of force that is "Through Madness and Sanity I AM" (what a title), the choppy bridge of "Unmasked Violation of Life" and the rocking mesh of anger and fragility that is "For What Blooms Without Lust".

When compared to its elder sibling, Towards the Ultimate comes out on top due to the higher fraction of memorable riffs conjured through its hostile depths. The production here is even tighter and more professional than before, and the vocals grim and bloodied even if they're not the most unique aspect of the performance. Svarttjern's biggest weakness is probably that they tread along heavily trampled ground, and don't really offer a novel incentive why one might choose them over the classics in the field (Opus Nocturne, In the Nightside Eclipse, Vobiscum Satanas, etc). But the strength of their performance, their ability to marry muscle to intricacy, the glorious to the grotesque, is unflinching, and you won't hear many newer bands with this level of well-rounded, punishing ability.